I’m getting too strong. I know that sounds ridiculous to most people but for me it truly is what’s happening; at least as a human being in a woman’s body. Ryan and I recently took a vacation to Mexico and when we returned I was eager to plug the SD card into our computer so that we could view our pictures. As I slowly scrolled through each one I was shocked and baffled to see over and over again this buff, meaty, bulky looking girl staring back at me. How in the world did she happen and when did she overtake my formerly tall, slim physique?
In particular, I looked at one picture which bothered me more so than the others did. I was lying on our bed in the hotel, fully clothed, my arm slightly cocked supporting my head and in that minor incline of the arm my biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles were all bulging out in defined triumph; problem is, I’m not flexing in the pose. I peered closer at this picture and realized that much of my softness as a woman was gone and in place of a warm femininity was this masculine, testosterone type female looking back at me, and I didn’t necessarily like how she looked.
I was aware that I had put on about 20 pounds in the past year and a half, and I told myself it was fine because it was muscle, which it clearly is but looking at that girl in the pictures I realized that this is not how I want to look! I am a fighter by nature, and I’ve had a few spiritual and physical battles in my 35 years here and there is a part of me that rationalizes the strength due to having to carry around an 8 year old handicapped child and also the stamina needed on a daily basis to care for 7 children. Recently I remember feeling pride well up inside me as someone commented on how they wouldn’t want to mess with me in a dark alley (a woman if that makes a difference to you men) so this strength obsession had obviously taken a very wrong turn somewhere in my life.
It was in these moments of viewing vacation pictures that I decided to cut back on training. I had been working upper body hard about two days a week and lower body hard another two days a week and doing cardio 6 days a week. So with my new resolve to cut back on the weights and focus on long, lean muscles I hit the gym one day. Once inside the pumped up atmosphere with the beat of the music drumming loudly and the inner intensity to “hit it hard” started revving up my mind and body. Then my competitive nature kicked in; I honestly reached for the 15 pound dumb bells and I made the mistake of glancing over my shoulder and it was then that I noticed a woman curling 25 pound dumb bells. I immediately threw the 15 pounders down and grabbed my own 25 pound weights and proceeded to continue the workout in that fashion, pushing myself harder and harder, and getting increasingly bigger and bigger with every pump, pull, and push.
Driving home I was frustrated, asking myself, “Why in the world do I feel like I have to be so strong? Isn’t that what God is for? Or at least I should trust the man he gave to me in marriage! Shouldn’t I trust the Lord and my husband to carry the strength part of it all for me?” I began praying about it right in that moment, asking, “Lord, why do I have such a hard time giving up my strength? Why do I feel like I need to be able to do everything myself all the time?” And He began speaking to my heart, slowly peeling back the layers, one by one and reveling to me what my strength was all about. On one hand, my strength is a gift. I had the strength of a strong faith in extremely difficult situations; I had the strength to do what He called me to do in raising a handicapped child, in marrying a man I had known for five months, and in becoming legal mom to three motherless children. I am a strong person for many good reasons and my physical, mental, and spiritual strength have gotten me to where I am today, BUT it has a dark side as well. I have a hard time trusting God to take care of me completely. He has given me a handicapped son and He allowed me to go through the pain of three years of brain cancer and the agony of being a widow with four young children. There was something about me staying strong that gave me this ridiculous idea that I was actually able to maintain some sort of control over my life. My strength was also about my husband - current and late. My late husband’s strength wasn’t enough to pull our family through and if I was having a hard time placing that kind of faith and trust in the God of the universe, how much more difficult was it for me to trust another human being – my current husband. As God was showing me these revelations I thought, “How do I reconcile this because it’s not really about working out - it’s so much more about control. How do I completely trust God’s hand in my life and how do I trust my husband and how do I trust that even if something bad happens again that God still loves me and he will still take care of me and that His will is still perfect, even in all of the storms and imperfections of life? How do I do this Lord?
I’ve started with prayer and the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. Not Jessica who strengthens me or the weights that strengthen me, but “Christ who strengthens me.” That has become my mantra. I’ve acknowledged the problem – half the battle is done. I know what it’s all about when I reach for bigger and bigger dumb bells and like they say, ignorance is bliss and I’m no longer ignorant so I can’t live in a blissful, oblivious state. And finally, I let my husband in on my secret. He probably had it figured out long before I shared it with him, he’s good like that, and he’s praying right alongside me, praying that I will trust him, praying that I can let go of some of the control, and praying for redemption and grace as I learn to put trust in my Heavenly Father and not in my own strength.
Just keep livin!!